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Does anyone have any experience in measuring the flow of hand pumps?

We are planning to monitor the sustainability of hand pumps over a period of one year and one of the indicator I am planning to monitor is its discharge along with its water quality.

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Autonomous monitoring of flow rates is being piloted by a few groups, including Oxford University, SweetLabs, Charity:Water, and my own organization WellDone (

Flow rates can be measured or estimated using several different methods (turbine, conductivity, capacitance, handle accelerometer, etc.) each with its share of trade-offs. WellDone has used primarily turbine meters and will be testing non-invasive ultrasound in our next deployments. Retrieving this data robustly and cost-effectively is a significant challenge for which we hope to provide a general-purpose solution. For rural water infrastructure monitoring all of the remote monitoring products today use an integrated cellphone that reports over the GSM network.

Water quality is more difficult since it is not currently feasible to automatically detect specific bacteria (such as e-coli). There are indicator "symptoms" such as water temperature, turbidity, and pH that can be measured reliably, but they do not reliably correlate with harmful bacteria content.

I hope this helps somewhat, I am more than happy to discuss in more detail offline if you are interested!


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Maybe you could explain in more detail what you need the measurement for?

Water for People in Uganda has experimented with regular turbine water meters attached to India Mark2/U2 in a PPP project for "investors" to be able to control the amount of water sold by the pump caretaker when collecting the money from them. It seemed to have worked relatively well. You can download some reports on this here:

I have also experimented with electric non-moving parts flow meters some years ago but they seem to have issues with very low flows and flows that are very uneven as in the case of hand-pumps. In addition they are probably too expensive anyways ;)

Last but not least there is a very interesting pilot being done for indirectly measuring flow by having a movement sensor in the pump handle. It's of course not as precise, but depending on what you want to know, it might even be better, see:

Last but not least: please think well about including any sort of on-side payments for hand-pumps as this usually only results in people getting (part of) their water from other unsafe sources, which should not be the intended outcome as much as I can also understand the need for cost recovery for doing maintenance.

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Hi Krischan,

WellDone ( has been using GSM-connected in-line turbine flow meters in Tanzania, and we are currently developing a low-cost solution to non-invasive (also no moving parts) flow monitoring as well. I would love to learn more about your experiences and share ours, please feel free to reach out to me at!

Regards, Austin

amcgee gravatar imageamcgee ( 2015-08-07 18:50:25 -0600 )edit

Measuring in a bucket as mentioned above is the correct way of measuring.

A person operating the hand pump is as much part of the "pump" as the "steel parts". If you are concerned with the yield of the borehole you should perform this test during the day, as many times as the number of people you expect will be using the pump.

Children will be using the pump as well, I presume, and you should pick some "representative child" and perform the test with her. This will also allow you to evaluate the effort required to draw a bucket of water from the pump.

You may want to plan for a test during the rainy season as well as during the dry season.

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Orlando Avis has posted a similar question here:

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Additionally understanding water yield is a key aspect of MEP and might allow us to plan appropriate interventions based on population size requirements.

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